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Perimenopause – What to Expect

By EmpowHER
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A woman goes through many stages in her life: her first period, her first pregnancy, and menopause. Yes, as if it couldn’t get any worse there is a stage before menopause called perimenopause.

The time before you actually become menopausal is usually referred to as perimenopause, whereas the time when your ovary has ceased functioning completely is called menopause. If you are a woman in your 40s or early 50s, you are probably experiencing some preimenopause symptoms. Having symptoms of perimenopause usually means you are getting closer to menopause.

While menopause is a normal change that all women experience, the symptoms can vary from mild to severe. These symptoms begin long before you actually reach menopause and before your menstruation cycle completely ends. Perimenopause can occur naturally or can be medically induced, such as by having a hysterectomy or taking medications.

Here are some common physical and emotional perimenopause symptoms you may experience as your body begins to change .

Menstrual irregularity
When ovulation is inconsistent, you may experience symptoms including periods spaced out by longer or shorter amounts of time, a heavy or light flow, or skipped periods. Perimenopause is considered early when the duration of the menstrual cycle changes by more than seven days, while perimenopause is defined as late when you skip two or more periods and periods come every 60 days or more.

Hot flashes and sleep problems
Hot flashes occur when the body experiences irregular hormonal changes. They usually occur during the final stages of perimenopause, and approximately 65-75 percent of women experience hot flashes. Although most women go through hot flashes, they all experience different levels of intensity, duration, and frequency. Many women undergoing hot flashes suffer from sleep problems as well. Night sweats can cause sleep deprivation, but insomnia can happen without hot flashes.

Mood changes
Women going through perimenopause often experience changes in mood such as mood swings, short tempers and depression. Such mood changes can be linked to sleep problems from hot flashes.

Vaginal and bladder problems
During perimenopause, a drop in one’s amount of estrogen often causes vaginal tissues to lose lubrication and flexibility. This change can make sexual intercourse painful. One can contract urinary and vaginal infections more easily as well as experience urinary incontinence due to a reduction in estrogen.

Decreasing fertility
When women ovulate less often, they lose the ability to become pregnant. To ensure you do not become pregnant, continue to use a form of birth control until your period does not return for 12 months. It is important to remember you can still become pregnant as long as you are still having your period.

Changes in sexual function
Although many women experience changes in sexual desires during perimenopause, a strong sexual well-being before menopause usually continues during and past perimenopause.

Loss of bone
As estrogen declines, bone mass is often lost. This erosion of bone can lead to osteoporosis.

Changing cholesterol levels
During perimenopause, the amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as bad cholesterol, in the body often increases. However, levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or good cholesterol, sometimes decrease.

Women experience symptoms for perimenopause anywhere from a few months to a few years. Symptoms usually first occur during one’s 30s, 40s or early 50s.

While some women fully endure symptoms of perimenopause, some never experience the symptoms and move straight to menopause. Because all women live different lifestyles, not everyone’s experiences with perimenopause and menopause are the same.

There are some techniques you can try that can alleviate the symptoms of perimenopause.

Dress in layers
Hormonal changes can happen frequently and periodically throughout the day. If you dress in light layers you will be prepared to adjust your temperature as needed.

Watch what you eat
Eating spicy foods and consuming caffeinated beverages can cause unwanted hot flashes. Learn what foods and drinks trigger your hormonal changes so you know what you should avoid.

Avoid stress
High levels of stress can trigger hormonal fluctuations. Exercise such as walking or yoga can help you relieve stress and stimulate positive sensations in your mind and body.

Use water-based lubrication
Women who experience vaginal dryness or pain during intercourse will benefit from using a water-based lubrication. Lubrication can increase pleasurable sensations allowing women to climax more quickly during sex.

If are experiencing severe symptoms that interfere with your life or well-being and concern you, talk to your doctor to see if hormone therapy or another approach is right for you.

To learn more about the symptoms associated with perimenopause talk to your doctor or visit: www.mayoclinic.com/health/perimenopause/DS00554/DSECTION=symptoms

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